in about 100 words or less
USA 79m, silent B&W
Director: Oscar Micheaux; Cast: Evelyn Preer, Flo Clements, James D. Ruffin, Jack Chenault, William Smith, Charles D. Lucas
Within Our Gates is a dramatic film with a complicated plot which appears to have been made in direct response to D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” as it explores race relations in America – but from an African-American perspective. Interestingly, the film does not lay all of the blame on America’s southern white population, but rather, indicates complicity by some self-serving black individuals, such as the dishonest preacher, who suggests to his congregation that schooling for blacks can only lead to trouble, and that ignorance is the quickest way to heavenly salvation. While at times, it is difficult to follow the plot of this film, this may be due to the fact that it was restored from a single and incomplete copy which had been altered. Despite this limitation, Within Our Gates is a sophisticated film that offered a powerful counterpoint to Griffith’s wildly popular and overtly racist Birth of a Nation. It is unfortunate, however, that this film has had only a small fraction of the attention (Klaus Ming February 2010).